Saw this website the other day – I’m not surprised it died on the house floor when I looked up this bill – no way manufacturers and their powerful lobbyists allow this to pass.

Although this bill was co-sponsored by a ridiculous number of congressmen and women, this extremely helpful bill for independent automotive repair shops, simply died.

Lets look at why. . .

Ever wonder why sophisticated laptop computers cost a few hundred dollars while scanners that have the ability to work across different manufacturers platforms cost several thousand dollars, with the need to purchase updates every year?

It’s simple – to keep the service monopoly, sending more business to overpriced dealerships, making independents look incompetent and unable to service vehicles as if they were “untrained” on new technologies.

Manufacturers code their computer systems to disguise what is a simple monitoring system to adjust different output voltage from sensor inputs, i.e., taking the MAP and adjusting A/F ratio, and creating the need for system of manufacturer specific diagnostic systems. It’s no surprise that dealerships have this information and technology, but the independent is forced to purchase ridiculously priced machines to keep pace.

There’s two ways a company like SnapOn could get access to this technology. One, either the manufacturers license this information to SnapOn for a ridiculous amount of money, requiring a cut from every unit sold (why do you think there are 20 different keys for the scanners?) or two, reverse engineering the software and or technology independently “breaking” the specific manufacturers code in order to provide it to independent dealers at a reduced cost, avoiding the licensing fee.

If I were running the manufacturer, it would be easy to prevent the latter from happening. Under basic patent law and intellectual property rights, I’d be able to enjoin (a fancy legal term to prevent someone from doing something) start up company X who reverse engineered a scanning machine able to break the manufacturers specific code for diagnostic purposes, from distributing or using said technology as this was a protected “trade secret” computer technology and monitoring system that took hours and hours of R&D to create (no, it didn’t) that manufacturers probably filed with the US patent office, thus invoking the presumption of protection of “trade secrets”.

So If company X was able to create a cheap scanner for manufacturer Y, and I’m that manufacturer, I sue to enjoin them from manufacturing it, tying them up in court for hopefully, if my law firm knows IP law (Intellectual Property Law – the area of law that deals with patents or other protected information), for several years before they’re allowed to start providing this service.

If I lose, they’ve wasted 2 years and thousands of dollars in legal fees without the ability to sell their product. Eventually, I bet, if I were the manufacturer, I’d be able to buy their company through a shell corporation or simply outright on the cheap and just fire everyone, nixing that whole competition thing.

This would force people who need diagnostic services for my vehicles to head to the dealership, as the license fees for said technology are too high for the average independent to afford constant scanner updates, but we have an agreement that dealerships get access for free. Incidentally, this means more money in the manufacturers pocket.

Aren’t monopolies grand?

I hope the legislature pulls through and re-submits a like minded bill, providing access to independents to the “special code” to monitor systems and properly diagnose them with simple scan tools that are now available on the market.

It’s criminal for independents to have to pay thousands of dollars a year for “updates” for a system to measure voltage readouts for sensors and modules, a relatively easy thing for a computer to do. I hope the FTC or someone else recognizes how this process violates just about every goal of anti-trust legislation, standing up for independent repair facilities that are just as competent, if not more so, than dealerships.

Hey, you never know, maybe I’ll be able to take a shot at em’ one day.

– William Ferreira


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